Booth Colman, who had a long career as an actor including the role of ape scientist Dr. Zaius in the 1970s “Planet of the Apes” TV series, died in his sleep on Dec. 15 in Los Angeles. He was 91.
Colman was a Shakespearean authority who essayed mostly dramatic roles. He had a gravitas that was well-used in his many performances as authority figures, such as doctors, clergymen, scientists and attorneys. Though he was never a comedian, he appeared in comedies and treasured his friendship with classic performer Stan Laurel of Laurel & Hardy. (Colman is pictured above with Lois Laurel, the daughter of Stan Laurel.)
Though he worked in film — with more than 50 bigscreen appearances — and onstage, Colman was best known for his work on television. He racked up many credits, from the early days of TV in the 1950s through 2008.
He guested, often multiple times, on series including “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” “Star Trek,” “The Waltons,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Route 66,” “The Rifleman,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Bonanza,” “Mannix,” “Marcus Welby,” “Mission: Impossible” and “The Untouchables,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Chicago Hope.”
He also appeared in TV comedies including “My Three Sons,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Monkees,” “The Flying Nun” and, later, “Frasier” and “My Name is Earl.” The actor also occasionally had recurring roles in such soap operas as “The Young and the Restless” and “General Hospital.”
Colman made his film debut in 1952’s “The Big Sky” and last appeared on the bigscreen in the Coen brothers’ 2003 “Intolerable Cruelty.” He worked on Broadway, appearing with the likes of Basil Rathbone and Fredric March, and appeared as Scrooge onstage in “A Christmas Carol” almost every year for decades.
As a young actor, Colman studied with the Maurice Evans company, with which he appeared in “Hamlet.” Eventually the association led to Booth assuming the role of Dr. Zaius, which Evans originated in two bigscreen “Planet of the Apes” films. Colman’s work on the series led to acclaim from fans as well as invitations to appear at film conventions.
Colman was born in Portland, Oregon, and he attended the University of Washington, and the U. of Michigan, where he began his career in radio. He mastered multiple languages.